Prussia’s victory over Austria increased tensions with France. The French Emperor, Napoleon III, feared that a powerful Prussia would upset the balance of power in Europe. Bismarck, at the same time, sought war with France; he believed that if the German states perceived France as the aggressor, they would unite behind the King of Prussia.
A appropriate premise for war arose in 1870, when the German Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was offered the Spanish throne, which had been vacant since a revolution in 1868.
Bismarck then published the Ems Dispatch, a carefully edited version of a conversation between King Wilhelm and the French ambassador to Prussia. The publication was meant to provoke France into declaring war on Prussia. The Ems Dispatch had the desired effect. France mobilized and declared war, but was seen as the aggressor; as a result, German states, swept up by nationalism and patriotic zeal, rallied to Prussia’s side and supplied troops.
The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 was a terrific success for Prussia. The German army, commanded by Moltke, won victory after victory. The French were defeated in every battle. The remainder of the war featured quite careful German operations and massive confusion on the part of the French.
In the end, France was forced to pay a large indemnity and concede Alsace and part of Lorraine. Though Bismarck opposed the annexation, asserting it would be the”Achilles’ Heel” of this new empire, Moltke and his generals insisted that it was needed to keep France in a defensive position. He broke France’s supremacy over continental Europe following the Franco-Prussian war.
He carefully built the external safety of the new German Country upon his skillful diplomacy, which isolated France internationally and made a vast and complex system of alliances for mutual military support with the majority of Europe’s nations.
In the role of an’honest broker’, Bismarck was also successful in maintaining peace and stability in Europe by settling French political conflicts through negotiations. Essentially a careful politician, Bismarck never pursued an imperialistic course in Europe. In Africa however, Bismarck followed for a time a policy of imperial conquest, in a manner similar to the other European powers.
His most important tool in politics was his ability in the successful preparation of complex international developments.
Bismarck decided to act immediately to secure the unification of Germany after his victory over France. He opened negotiations with representatives of southern German states, offering special concessions if they would agree to unification. The negotiations were successful; King Wilhelm was crowned”German Emperor” on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors in the Chateau de Versailles for the additional humiliation of France.